Media release

Rhode Island Foundation will lead effort to recommend options for spending the state’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars

With support from Economic Progress Institute and Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and with broad community input

The Rhode Island Foundation announced today that it is launching an initiative -- Make it Happen: Investing for Rhode Island’s Future -- to develop recommendations for spending up to $1 billion in broad new stimulus funding the state is projected to receive from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARP).

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Strategically invested, we can responsibly and creatively leverage these taxpayer dollars to hopefully change the trajectory of the state for generations to come."

- Neil D. Steinberg, Foundation president and CEO

The Foundation, with the support of the Economic Progress Institute (EPI) and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), will develop an array of recommendations over the next six months. The findings will be shared with Gov. Dan McKee and leaders of the General Assembly to inform their decisions.

“We appreciate the Rhode Island Foundation leading this collaborative effort to gather and research potential transformational investments to build Rhode Island back better than ever. These recommendations will help inform the General Assembly as we hear from state agencies, community groups, and the public about the challenges facing Rhode Islanders as we emerge from this pandemic. Ultimately, the way the General Assembly invests these resources should help strengthen our economy and the financial wellbeing of our citizens,” said Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio in a joint statement.

“We thank the Foundation for their efforts. This is an enormously important moment in time. Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we will soon be receiving substantial resources from the federal government and there's the potential for even more going forward. It's critical that we utilize these resources in a way that benefits Rhode Island -- our economy and our residents -- in the near term and the long term."

- Gov. Dan McKee

“We welcome input from organizations such as these as well as other stakeholder groups and members of the public as we formulate our plans for the expenditure and investment of these federal dollars in collaboration with the General Assembly. In the coming weeks, the state will be undertaking a coordinated planning, outreach and public input process for this purpose,” Gov. McKee continued.

The Foundation’s initiative will exclusively address the nearly $1 billion in discretionary funding that state government is projected to receive under ARP. It will not address additional ARP funding to the state that is already earmarked for specific uses nor will it address the ARP funding that cities and towns are scheduled to receive, but will coordinate with municipalities on their efforts.

“The Foundation, with input from EPI and RIPEC, has recruited a steering committee in order to inform and assist the process of determining these critical spending recommendations. We have assembled a diverse, representative, local steering committee to brainstorm and oversee a virtual public engagement process, and to ultimately formulate a set of recommended investments for consideration by the Governor and the General Assembly,” said Steinberg.

The steering committee members are:

  • Marcela Betancur, executive director of the Latino Policy Institute
  • Jessica David, consultant and former executive vice president of strategy and community investments at the Rhode Island Foundation
  • Ditra Edwards, executive director of Sista Fire
  • John Friedman, professor of economics and international and political affairs at Brown University
  • John Galvin, president and CEO of AAA Northeast
  • Marie Ganim, former state health insurance commissioner and former state Senate policy director
  • Ross Gittell, president of Bryant University
  • Rajiv Kumar, technology entrepreneur and founder ShapeUp
  • Tony Maione, former president and CEO of the United Way of R.I.
  • Anna Cano Morales, associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Rhode Island College
  • Nina Pande, executive director of Skills for Rhode Island’s Future
  • Megan Ranney, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University
  • Nic Retsinas, director emeritus, Harvard Joint Centers for Housing Studies
  • Don Stanford, adjunct professor of computer science at Brown University and former chief technology officer at GTECH
  • Edi Tebaldi, professor of economics and executive director of institutional effectiveness and strategy at Bryant University.

The Foundation, EPI and RIPEC will begin now and work together to facilitate the committee’s conversations, and guide the public engagement process. The Foundation will fund the initiative.

“We expect and encourage the public engagement process to consist of community outreach and broad direct stakeholder engagement,” said Steinberg. The steering committee will develop a set of principles to guide its work.

The steering committee will work with the state Department of Administration regarding the federal parameters and dollar estimates of the up to $1 billion in unallocated funding that state government is projected to receive.

The Foundation believes that:

  • Investments should confer benefits equitably and inclusively across Rhode Island’s population
  • Investments should be fully funded by ARP dollars, and also sustainable over the long term
  • Investments should be bold, creative and transformational—that is, the investments should improve Rhode Island’s economy or quality of life in a fundamental way
  • Investments should respond to the negative economic, health and social impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic to create a better future for all.

Until the public engagement process is established, the public can share ideas with the committee at arpideas@rifoundation.org.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.